Elachi chai is a strong black Indian cardamom tea with milk. Its star ingredient is green cardamom powder which creates a sweet and floral black tea.
Elachi (Hindi) or elakkai (Tamil) are different words for the beloved sweet and floral spice known as cardamom. This chai recipe is one for those who love a sweet chai. It features one spice, cardamom, so try to source the highest quality to really allow this chai to shine!
- Black CTC tea - It's important to use black CTC tea for a strong cup of chai. You can learn more about this type of tea, its substitutes, and why it makes the best cup of chai in this detailed blog post. However, if you want to skip right to the brand recommendation, I suggest Red Label for your chai needs.
- Cardamom powder - Warm and sweet taste.
- Water and Milk - I use a 1:1 ratio of milk to water in my chai for a creamy result. Tweak the ratio for your perfect cup.
Whole cardamom vs. cardamom powder
Whole cardamom leads to a more subtle flavor than ground cardamom powder. For cardamom chai, where we are featuring cardamom, we want to use cardamom powder to get a more potent cardamom flavor. However, a little bit of cardamom goes a long way so ¼ of a teaspoon of cardamom powder is plenty for 3 cups of chai.
Alternatively, you can substitute 5-6 pods that you lightly crush instead. Crushing the cardamom pods exposes the center seed which has a ton of flavor and releases some of the essential oils in cardamom.
Grind your cardamom powder at home
This chai is only as good as your cardamom powder. Spices in their ground or powder form degrade quickly compared to their whole counterparts. When you purchase cardamom powder at your local grocery store, you don't know how long the powder has been sitting on shelves.
Buy high quality cardamom that still looks bright green, lightly toast the cardamom pods to release their essential oils, and then grind them into a powder for a really fresh tasting powder! I highly recommend Diaspora Co's whole cardamom pods which are ethically sourced and will list their harvest date.
You can use a mortar and pestle to grind your spices which will result in a coarser powder, which is alright for chai since you will filter the spices out anyways, or you can use a Kitchen Aid Spice and Coffee Grinder which will get the spices very fine in texture.
Elachi chai vs. other chais
- Elachi chai has one spice that it features, cardamom, whereas masala chai is made up of many spices and a chai masala spice blend.
- Elachi chai uses spice in powder form for an intense cardamom flavor whereas rose chai uses whole crushed spices and rose water for a very delicate flavor.
- Elachi chai is much sweeter compared to a spicier and warming ginger chai.
What pairs well with elachi chai
Eating savory snacks with a sweet elachi chai is one of my favorite pairings. If I am feeling a heavier snack during tea time, then keema (minced meat) aloo (potato) cutlets are the perfect baked snack! On the lighter side is a crunchy snack known as cornflake mixture or chevdo, which is a mix of cornflakes tossed in a warm spice oil, crunchy peanuts, and sweet raisins.
Frequently Asked Questions
Loose leaf CTC black tea or crush, tear, curl black tea is best for chai as it provides a strong tea flavor that can stand up to the spices in chai. Red Label black CTC tea is a brand I recommend.
Chai inherently is a creamy drink that is brewed with milk and spices. If you avoid milk because you are lactose intolerant, you can substitute lactose-free milk. Other alternative milks that are great in chai are oat milk and almond milk!
You can swap out CTC black tea, which is traditionally used in chai, for rooibos, which is a decaffeinated tea, to make a chai without caffeine. You can learn more about decaf chai in this blog post along with a full recipe.
Follow the recipe below for chai but slightly reduce the amount of water to account for the ice that will dilute the chai later. Chai can be made up to a week in advance, filtered, and stored in the fridge until ready to be consumed. Checkout this detailed post about iced chai as well as the recipe in this blog post.
You can simply drink chai without sugar for a sugar-free chai. Alternatively, you can use unrefined sugar like jaggery or honey to sweeten chai.
Chai is served for breakfast as well as around tea time which is anywhere between 3:30pm to 5pm. But really, chai can be had at anytime of day. If you are sensitive to caffeine, either avoid chai late at night or substitute black tea with rooibos for a decaffeinated option.